Saqib Mahmood – Fight for Lancashire places will help on first England tour
Mahmood is among a number of fresh faces in England’s T20 squad.
Saqib Mahmood believes the healthy rivalry that exists between Lancashire’s coterie of bowlers has attuned him to what awaits with England this winter.
The uncapped paceman is still reeling from being named in the squads for the five Twenty20s and two Tests in New Zealand for a tour which marks the start of Chris Silverwood’s reign as England head coach.
It follows a summer in which Mahmood finished as the leading wicket-taker in the Royal London One-Day Cup before being overshadowed in the County Championship and Vitality Blast by some of Lancashire’s other fast bowlers.
However, competing for a place in a Lancashire squad containing England record wicket-taker James Anderson, plus Graham Onions, Richard Gleeson and Tom Bailey has given Mahmood a taste of what to expect in international cricket.
Mahmood told the PA news agency: “It still feels weird to think that I’ve been picked for England.
“If I get the opportunity I want to go out there and just give it my all. It’s the same at Lancs, where this year we had a very high level of competition in the bowlers.
“England will be another step-up but I’m used to dealing with that competition where you’re fighting for places, you’re not quite sure who’s going to play or where you’ve got to up your game to get into that XI.
“It will be the same with England. I think it will be one of those where very quickly I’ll have to learn and see what kind of areas that I’ve got to make sure I’m on top of.”
Mahmood describes his time on the field alongside Anderson at the Red Rose as “invaluable”, and now the 22-year-old is relishing the chance to train and potentially play alongside Jofra Archer.
While Archer went past 95mph on a few occasions in a breakthrough summer, Mahmood, capable of finding conventional and reverse swing, is no slouch on the speed gun either and has regularly clocked 90mph.
Mahmood thinks the arrival of Archer, who has been rested for the T20s after his World Cup and Ashes exertions, will only organically elevate his own levels.
Mahmood said: “If you look at Jofra and the speeds he’s bowling and what he’s achieving, I’m the type of player where that will make me hungrier for more.
“In training if he’s bowling quick you want to push yourself that little bit further. You’ve got someone who’s doing it at top level and you want to almost try to get to his level as well.
“It’s the same when Jimmy’s at Lancs, I’m trying to work on my skill, I see that as the finished article and I want to work my way towards that.
“The level of skill he has, when you’re surrounded by those types of guys, I think naturally you lift your own standards as well to match them.”
The departure of Trevor Bayliss and promotion of Silverwood marks the beginning of a new era for England following a momentous World Cup and Ashes summer.
I'd like to break into the side and hopefully perform and show what I can do at T20 level. That's what I'm aiming at
- Saqib Mahmood
Mahmood is among a number of fresh faces in the T20 squad and knows the sprint format offers him the best chance of an international debut before the arrival of the established performers for the Test series.
Mahmood added: “Whenever you get picked for England it’s a great time but to be picked on the back of that summer is very special.
“I’d like to break into the side and hopefully perform and show what I can do at T20 level. That’s what I’m aiming at. And then the same for the Test side.
“The Test side will be a lot harder to break into, there’s a pretty set core with Jofra, (Stuart) Broad, Jimmy’s to come back, Mark Wood to come back, there’s a lot of competition. I’ve just got to give myself the best chance.”